It’s her first semester majoring in musical theater at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, and Nasrin spends her days prepping for auditions, sweating through dance classes, and belting her heart out for the viral streaming show she’s been cast in. But on calls with her maman and baba, she’s the golden child who put her theater dreams aside to follow in their entrepreneurial footsteps as a business major.
At least her whole life isn’t a lie—she is taking a single business course. Except she’s kind of failing it. Nasrin needs to bring her grade up fastif she’s going to keep her parents in the dark, so she grudgingly signs up for tutoring with the infuriatingly smug and annoyingly attractive Max. And yet . . . as the semester rushes by, the sparks of anger that first flew between them start to turn into a very different kind of spark. The kind she definitely does not have time for.
Except when Nasrin’s charmingly devious cousin takes an interest in Max too, Nasrin has to figure out exactly what has been an act, and what’s for real. Can Nasrin decide what—and who—is truly worth fighting for, and find a way to step into the spotlight as her full self?
Title: A Whole Song and Dance
Author: Sarvenaz Tash
Publication Date: April 4, 2023
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
How to Succeed
I’m idling in my car even though I pulled into my driveway at least ten minutes ago, nervously tapping my hands on the steering wheel in time to the How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying cast recording. My stomach is flipping like a full-blown Newsies routine, and my perfectly ordinary front door has never looked so intimidating.
To give myself an extra shot of courage, I pick up my phone and read the impossible email just one more time.
Congratulations! You have been accepted to the
Drama BFA program at NYU Tisch School of the
Arts. Welcome to New Studio on Broadway.
I close my eyes and focus on the visualization technique I use to calm my nerves every time I’m about to step onto a stage.
First, square breathing: in for two, hold for two, out for two, hold for two. Repeat four times.
Next, my three words of intention: how I want my audience—in this case, my parents—to feel once I’ve performed. The words are technically supposed to be verbs. So, okay, I want to charm, excite, and . . .uh, prouden? Is that a word?
Lastly, and arguably the easiest part for me: remind myself to speak calmly, slowly, and with passion. I also need to remember the most important truth bomb in my arsenal: that the NYU musical theater department only has a 15 percent acceptance rate. If there’s one thing my parents can get behind, it’s percentages.
This is it. I’m going to use all my performance acumen and all my courage and come clean: Maman and Baba, I applied to Tisch, the art school, not Stern, the business school. I got in! And I’m going to study theater and spend the rest of my life performing.
I’m going to tell them. Today, I think, just as my stomach does another Tony-worthy backflip and the arched glass in my front door seems to frown even wider. Or maybe . . . sometime this weekend. Because I think there’s an Iranian soccer match on tomorrow and then they’ll be feeling particularly relaxed.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that my parents aren’t supportive. Maman and Baba paid for and drove me to every voice lesson or dance class, attended every single one of my performances whether I was playing a background tulip or had the lead role, and cheered harder than anyone when I took my bows, from age four until now. They love that I love to perform . . .They also really, really want me to go to business school.
I listen to Daniel Radcliffe belt out some more tips about how to walk into a conference room, soaking in my ironic choice of pump-up music, before I finally turn off the car. It’ll be okay; I have a whole weekend to tell them.
But when I step into the door, Maman and Baba are both lying in wait in the foyer. Their eyes are wild and bright, and when they land on me, my parents let out a joyous exclamation, as if they’ve been waiting for me all day. I glance back at my treacherous front door uneasily, wondering if they’ve been staring out at me sitting in my car.
“Nasrin, I’m sorry,” Maman says, and that’s when I notice that she’s clutching my iPad. “I promise I wasn’t prying. It’s just, the alert popped up on here this morning and I’ve been waiting all day to have you read it. . . .” She hands the tablet over to me.
“It’s from NYU!” Baba butts in. “We just saw it was from NYU.”
So much for that soccer match.
“Did you get in? Are you going to be a Sternie?” I look at my dad’s smiling face, how his dark mustache is bobbing up and down with anticipation. Then I turn to Maman, her brown eyes blinking madly behind her funky purple-and-pink glasses.
Maybe this would’ve been easier if I’d just let them overhear my Zoom audition. But I specifically asked my theater director to let me borrow the school auditorium for it. Probably because a large part of me never expected it would lead to this moment. I mean, come on. Fifteen percent.
I take a final deep breath and finish it off with my good luck ritual—two taps on the silver necklace that’s hanging from my neck, the pendant a tiny rendering of stage curtains. Maman and Baba got it for me years ago, just a few months before that disastrous Chorus Line audition that almost made them make me quit. . . .
But no, no. That is not what I need to be visualizing right now.
I put all the force of my vocal training behind my voice as I say, “I got into NYU—”
But before I get to finish my sentence, both my parents are hugging me and whooping loudly. I’m pretty sure that’s one of my mother’s tears I feel on my hair.
“We’re so proud!” Maman says.
“So proud, jigar talah!” Baba reiterates. “This makes everything worth it. All the sacrifices . . .”
Maman waves at him. “Let’s not get into that now, Nader. This is Nasrin’s moment! She did it!”
They both embrace me from either side again, a tight-knit Mahdavi circle that feels as warm as the sun.
They’re so happy.
And I’m so happy.
Sarvenaz Tash is the author of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love (an Amazon Best Book of the Year, YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers), A Whole Song and Dance, Virtually Yours, Three Day Summer, The Mapmaker and the Ghost and the co-author of Ghosting: A Love Story and Hollywood Ending (as Tash Skilton). She was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, which means she got to spend most of college running around and making movies (it was a lot of fun). She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, copywriting, and professional tweeting for the likes of Bravo and MTV. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn with her family.
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